High School Students in St. Louis Park, Minn. Leading Emerging Strategy to Combat Climate Change on Local Level

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Backed by iMatter and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, Students Spur City Council to Adopt Climate Inheritance Resolution, Set Aggressive Local Emissions Goals

Presenting the Youth Climate Report Card to St. Louis Park City Council

We strongly believe local action is the key to driving national change on this issue. And youth have a powerful voice, because we are the generation that will be most impacted by climate change.

In response to a presentation by a high-school youth group, St. Louis Park, Minn., has adopted a Climate Inheritance Resolution. The resolution commits the city to set aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gases locally, have youth involved, and start developing a plan within 30 days. St. Louis Park is a first-ring suburb of Minneapolis, Minn.

This local effort is supported by iMatter, a youth-driven organization that empowers high-school and middle-school students to combat climate change, and is part of their recently-launched iMatterNow national campaign. The St. Louis Park students – part of the Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots group, a global youth-led community action program – started working with iMatter late last year to take local action on climate change.

St. Louis Park is the first city in the iMatterNow campaign to adopt a Climate Inheritance Resolution. Other student-led efforts are underway in cities including Chappaqua, N.Y.; Des Moines, Iowa; Edina, Minn.; Urbana, Ill.; Toronto; and Ventura, Calif.

The resolution, passed on May 16, 2016, follows a March presentation to the City Council by the St. Louis Park students. They presented more than 550 student petition signatures, accompanied by a Youth Climate Report Card. The students gave St. Louis Park an overall grade of B-; on a plan to combat climate change, the city earned a D-, as there was not a formal plan in place.

The report card, petition and resolution are some of the tools developed by iMatter for the iMatterNow campaign, to help youth advocate for climate change action in their communities. With the Youth Climate Report Card, students grade their city based on publicly available data, such as renewable energy, waste management, and a plan to get to zero net emissions by 2040. The Climate Inheritance Resolution helps students engage with city leaders about how to create a local plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

Local Action, Youth as Moral Authority
“We strongly believe local action is the key to driving national change on this issue,” said Alec Loorz, 21, who founded iMatter in 2007 at the age of 13. “And youth have a powerful voice, because we are the generation that will be most impacted by climate change.”

“The St. Louis Park High School Roots & Shoots students are proof that youth aren’t waiting to become ‘the leaders of tomorrow’ but are in fact taking action to make real change happen today,” said Erin Viera Orr, Roots & Shoots Associate Vice President for Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots. “It is these young people who will inherit the Earth and it is these young people who represent Dr. Jane Goodall’s hope for our future.”

“Combining the natural moral authority youth have on climate change with a community focus is so powerful,” said Dan Cramer, Co-founder of Grassroots Solutions, an engagement consulting firm dedicated to social change. “Big social changes almost always start at a grassroots level, where the issue becomes local and personal.”

“We need something that shows more than just facts and figures and data,” said Bob Inglis, Executive Director of RepublicEn, a Republican group dedicated to fighting climate change. “We all act based on our hearts. This is why kids are so powerful, because they have the ability to get to our hearts and tell us that this matters, let’s do something about it.”

The Climate Inheritance Resolution helps local student leaders hold cities accountable, and to develop plans that protect their youngest generation – and future generations – by reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to the levels needed to impact climate change. The Youth Climate Report Card is based on science from a team of some of the world’s leading climate scientists, led by Dr. James Hansen.

Resolution Pushes St. Louis Park To Be More Forward-Thinking on Climate
“I want to recognize the momentous thing that we’ve done here, not only for our city, but for all the cities that are going to follow in our footsteps,” Sophia Skinner, junior at St. Louis Park High School and member of the Roots & Shoots group, told the council. She added, “Thank you all for acknowledging what we need to do for our future, and not just what’s considered ‘politically possible.’”

“What [the Roots & Shoots group] has done is pushed us to commit to develop a set of goals and strategies for how to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and how to mitigate some of the problems we have already created for ourselves,” said council member Susan Sanger, “which is a huge undertaking.”

All the St. Louis Park council members applauded the work of the students; many thanked them for their work during the meeting.

“Thank you for coming forward and helping us get to this point – making us get to this point,” said council member Gregg Lindberg.

The resolution commits St. Louis Park to begin development of a Climate Action Plan within 30 days; the plan will apply to all residents, businesses and city services.

“You came forward with a really clear vision for where we need to be, and you got us to commit to it,” said St. Louis Park Mayor Jake Spano.

Another Roots & Shoots member, sophomore Lukas Wrede, told the council, “Thank you for caring about our future as much as we do.”

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City of St. Louis Park
The City of St. Louis Park, population 47,500, has a long history of leading the way on environmental stewardship, including offering organized solid waste and organics collection and being the first city in the state to offer curbside recycling with incentives. More recently the city passed a zero-waste packaging ordinance for commercial establishments, to go into effect in January 2017. Other city-wide efforts include hybrid and all-electric vehicles incorporated into the city fleet, annual environmental education events for residents, zero-waste city events and many other initiatives. For more information visit http://www.stlouispark.org.

iMatter is a youth-driven climate change organization – founded by 13-year-old Alec Loorz in 2007 – dedicated to amplifying the voice of the youngest generation and empowering youth to hold their communities accountable for ending the climate crisis within their lifetimes. iMatter youth leaders are leading iMatterNow campaigns in their cities in an effort to shift the national climate conversation from “is it real?” to “why would we risk our children’s and grandchildren’s future?” For more information, please visit http://www.imatteryouth.org.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Group, St. Louis Park High School
Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the Jane Goodall Institute’s global youth-led community action program. Founded in 1991 by Dr. Jane Goodall and a group of Tanzanian students, the Roots & Shoots program is about making positive change happen — for our communities, for animals and for the environment. With hundreds of thousands of young people in more than 120 countries, the Roots & Shoots network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Through service projects, youth-led campaigns and an interactive website, Roots & Shoots members are making a difference across the globe.

St. Louis Park’s chapter has led multiple projects — including the successful construction of a hydroponics system and the implementation of composting during all school lunches. In late 2015, the club partnered with iMatter to launch an iMatterNow pilot campaign in St. Louis Park. For more information, please visit http://www.rootsandshoots.org.

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